Mount Desert voters approve mining moratorium

Posted Nov. 06, 2012, at 11:27 p.m.

MOUNT DESERT, Maine — Residents here on Tuesday voted to limit mining in town for six months, which will allow officials time to clarify rules about what kind of quarrying operations will be allowed in town.

Voters chose 749-557 to impose a moratorium on the approval of all mineral extraction permit applications submitted to the town for 180 days. The proposed moratorium could be renewed for another 180 days if selectmen decide more time is needed to study the issue.

The referendum stemmed from complaints by residents in the village of Hall Quarry about a stone-quarrying operation there. Now, selectmen will have more time to consider whether to allow that operation, and others like it, to continue.

The operation of quarries and similar sites in Mount Desert came under scrutiny this year after Hall Quarry residents complained to town officials about noise being generated by a stone-cutting operation in their neighborhood. The residents said that a machine Freshwater Stone uses to cut bedrock on land owned by Harold MacQuinn Inc., runs for hours at a time and makes a deafening din that makes it difficult to enjoy the peace and quiet of their homes.

The companies involved had not sought a town permit, saying they believed the operation is grandfathered because such activity has been consistently occurring at the site for at least the past couple of decades. They stopped mining in July while attempting to sort out the legal issue, and filed a permit application with the town.

The moratorium is retroactive to Aug. 6. Because MacQuinn and Freshwater Stone did not submit their permit application until after that date, their operation in Hall Quarry would be subject to the moratorium, according to officials.

Follow Mario Moretto on Twitter at @riocarmine.

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